Tiffani Thiessen on Turning 50, the Power of a Good Shoulder Pad, and Bean and Bacon Soup

Tiffani Thiessen on Turning 50, the Power of a Good Shoulder Pad, and Bean and Bacon Soup featured image

Her pop-culture stronghold has shown little sign of slowing since she starred as Kelly Kapowski in the cult-classic Saved By the Bell and Valerie Malone in Beverly Hills, 90210. Now, Tiffani Thiessen is taking on the culinary circuit via her hosting gig on MTV’s Deliciousness and the release of her second cookbook, HERE WE GO AGAIN: Recipes and Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers, out today. 

“We didn’t have money—we couldn’t waste food. We couldn’t waste anything,” the 49-year-old emphatically shares over Zoom about her “normal and humble upbringing” in Long Beach, CA. “There’s not one section of doing a book that’s not about that and there’s not one section of the book that was easy. People laugh at the fact that it’s one of those things where you must really love putting a book together, because you generally don’t make a lot of money on books. Being that this is my second one, I already knew how hard it was. It was really an idea that sparked at the beginning of COVID…none of us were going to the grocery store very often. so we were forced to really plan ahead and stretch the food we did have a little bit longer.”

A bit of a lightbulb moment for the icon, who, like her fan base, has an appreciation for all-things retro: “It got me thinking that that was sort of how I was raised. My parents didn’t have a ton of money, so my mom was always stretching food for budget reasons. Then it got me thinking, ‘This is how everybody really should be using the food that they have—this is how we should shop.’ Because food waste is such a big issue for us. It’s something I’m trying to instill in my children constantly. That’s how the very initial idea of the book started—it was purely because of that.”

I was looking at some of the recipes today, and they sound very good, and they’re also very funny. I love the way you produced it. What’s one of your top recipes that you’re sharing in the book?

“It’s like picking a favorite child, my dear. It’s hard. I’m going to go nostalgic. One of my most favorite recipes, personally, is the sausage, beans and greens. The reason why…I was a kid who grew up on canned soup. That’s just how everybody was back in the day. It was a very ‘70s, ‘80s thing. Bean and bacon soup was my favorite soup of all time. And my mom bought it all the time. I wanted to recreate a healthier version of that soup that I had such memories of having as a kid. I love it.”

Off the subject of the cookbook, what do you do now for wellness and relaxation and self-care in general?

“I do a lot. There’s not just one thing that I do. I’m going to be 50 soon. That’s my next birthday! I’ve spent this last year really self-reflecting on the things that I need…the physical and mental was a huge part of that.

A short story: I threw out my back last December. It was one of those things that’s never happened to me before. It really put me mentally in a dark space.

A very dear friend of mine forced me to look at the fact that I wasn’t going to move away from the physical pain that I was having until my mental was going to change. He really opened up my eyes to how important—and I knew this, but I just needed someone else to tell me how important—your mental state is to help the rest of your body.

Between that, as well as what I was already doing, which was going to the gym, I got very much into ice plunging and ice bathing the last year, which I do a ton of. I know it’s super trendy right now, but my family, who is based in Houston, has been doing it for five years. We used to do it with them all the time! I told my husband after my back issue, ‘I really want to bring this into my daily physical routine and mental as well.’ The mental benefits is just as much as the physical.

That’s something I do as well. Then, I try to really do a lot of my workouts outside, too. I think it’s important to be outside and be not just in a gym, which I do as well, but just hiking, biking, paddleboarding, being outside with nature is huge for me mentally and physically as well.”

That was my next question. Where is your head on the big 5-0?

“It’s funny, I’ve gotten asked this question and it’s funny. I don’t know why, there might be some reasons that I feel like I can put together of why I feel, but I actually am really feeling good about turning 50. I don’t know if I could say that about when I turned 40. Because I look back and in my late 30s and early 40s I was still having kids, I was having my kids at 36 and 41, so I think hormonally my body and my mental state was just all over the map.

Now that that’s sort of passed me and my kids are a little bit older, I feel like I’ve been able to spend a little more time back on me. When you’re having babies, it’s all about them. Now that my babies aren’t babies anymore, and they’re a little bit older and a little more independent, I feel like I’ve been able to put a little bit of that time back into myself. I’m feeling that. I’m feeling that. I feel great. I’m excited about turning 50. Is that weird? I don’t know, but I’m excited.”

That’s awesome. Congrats. I know that your kids aren’t quite the age you were when you got in the industry…but there has to be some weird “time-is-moving-too-fast” thinking swirling around right now.

“Oh, no, they are totally the age. Are you kidding? That’s what’s so scary! Help! They’re totally the age.” [laughs]

It has to be strange to think that you were famous as a teenager when it most likely seems they’re still so young.

“Yes. It is. It definitely is. They’re not showing any signs of wanting to go in that direction, so I don’t have that same thought-process of it happening. But, definitely…it’s weird. I look at my daughter—she’s 13 now. I was doing a lot of print modeling and commercials at that age. That’s two years away from when I started my very first big TV show. My son is eight, and that’s when I started doing commercials and print work. It’s funny to reflect on those ages a little bit, because it is when the roles are reversed you’re like, ‘Huh, that’s kind of crazy.'”

The question I always ask, what are the beauty products that you’ve used forever or what do you love right now? What’s good?

“I’m still searching for better hair care. Maybe you can help me with that! I’m open to suggestions! That’s the one thing that I feel like I haven’t tackled after having kids and aging. There has to be a better hair care system out there. I don’t know. Maybe you can help me with that, but that’s one I’m definitely searching for.

In the sense of beauty, water’s my number-one. I drink so much water and I feel like we don’t value that as a beauty product enough. Water is number-one. I’m always going to put that as my number-one list.

Rest is probably a number two. Isn’t that crazy? Getting ample amounts of rest, because when I don’t have enough sleep, I look like crap in the morning. Truly, I can see it everywhere. Then for actual products, Cellcosmet is one that I’ve been using for years. I love Elemis as well. There’s a long list. I use my steamer, which is a big one that I use all the time. My face steamer, I love.

What else am I using…let’s see. I could give you a long list, but I’m almost 50. How am I supposed to remember all this anymore? [laughs] I could definitely try to get you a bigger list if you’d like one. Those are some of my top ones that I’ve been using for a while.”

All good ones. You’re so iconic from the ‘80s, ‘90s, both decades really. Are there any looks that you wish would come back from then?

“I feel like so many of the trends come back. I look at my daughter and she’s wearing the big, baggy ‘90s jeans and the crop tops and all the band T-shirts that are super big. I’m wearing shoulder pads again. How crazy is that? I love the shoulder pad. I’m so glad they came back. I feel like I’m short-waisted, so this helps me feel a little bit longer. I’m glad about that one, I have to say.”

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